Posted by: atowhee | May 4, 2016


The leader of Canada’s Green Party is already blaming the catastrophic Fort Murray fire on climate change.  Only the densest denier of same could miss the deep and ugly irony that a city spread through once pristine forest and now rich on oil sands income could be destroyed by fire spurred by extra hot and dry weather.

Just chance or a warning from Mother Nature?

Posted by: atowhee | May 4, 2016


The leader of Canada’s Green Party is already blaming the catastrophic Fort Murray fire on climate change.  Only the densest denier of same could miss the deep and ugly irony that a city spread through once pristine forest and now rich on oil sands income could be destroyed by fire spurred by extra hot and dry weather.

Just chance or a warning from Mother Nature?

Posted by: atowhee | May 3, 2016


A small city in Canada’s energy belt is on fire…unseasonably hot and dry weather.  Largest evacuation in Canada’s history.  It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.  She neither forgives nor forgets.

Further climate badness:  Arctic Sea Ice at lowest level ever for this time of year.  Soon we’ll be sun-bathing on Baffin Island after Florida has sunk beneath the waves.  Kudos to Gov. Brown (D-CA) for poking Florida’s right-wing governor about not noticing climate change which will make Florida the first state to involuntarily disappear from the U.S.  Will Georgia accept expats from Florida as New Zealand has promised to do for Tongans when their nation goes under water?  Don’t bet on it.  Maybe Trump will build a wall around Florida as he’s got real estate there.  He could getr the Cubans to pay for it maybe.

Posted by: atowhee | May 2, 2016


May 2, 2016

Our cabin overlooks Keene Creek Canyon, the view of further mountain slopes  is through ponderosa, white fir, Douglas-fir and cedar.  The elevation is somewhere uphill of 4500 feet.  A bit downslope on the south-facing terrain the oaks are just beginning to put out leaves.  In the forest nearby a few trillium hide beneath taller plants, mountain mahogany are sporting their soft creamy white blooms and a few scattered Oregon grape [Mahonia] are flowering.  Their golden clusters of blossoms have made this evergreen shrub the state flower.P2700541 (1280x960)

It’s 650AM and Nora the dog is up but sluggish with sleep.  Steller’s Jays are scolding.  A pair of Canada geese are honking loudly as they fly up the canyon in the direction of Keene Creek Reservoir.  Close by a Flicker begins his volume-topping rattle call.  A second Flicker answers with a few sharp “clear” calls.  Not a peaceful forest at dawn.

Soon a Junco arrives to inspect a small brush pile of trimmed limbs.  A few minutes later a Robin whinnies, once.

720AM  A syncopated drumming indicates a Red-breasted Sapsucker.  The jays continue to suffer sporadic spasms of “schuck-schuck-schucking” calls.  I hear a Flicker drumming on a dead tree nearby.  I find the drummer and a second Flicker flies to inspect the drumming site.  As the morning continues I realize it is an excavation site.  At 725AM I hear the high pure call note of a Mountain Quail.  Directions: add to the morning air, repeat as needed.  732AM I hear the first Raven croak of the day.  The Jays are now quiescent.

745AM A pair of Juncos forage around either side of the trunk of a large ponderosa.  The male has a jet black head and dark back, his mate has more subdued coloring.  They move not by scurrying but in hops like all sparrows.  Downhill from our deck I can see other Juncos, one pair and then not far away a trio.  All forage on the ground, as they nest there as well…in tufts or other concealed spots.  It must work well as there are many Juncos.  They out-number humans in North America, a good sign for nature.

Then I hear a triplet of slurred notes that can only be my first Western Tanager of the spring.  This tropical migrant with his bright plumage must be newly returned.  Today he awakens to a 45 degree morning.  Could he possibly have flown in last night riding the winds?

Now I can clearly see the Flicker in the dead fir tree is excavating a nest hole.  He or she is about a third of the way up the trunk of a 75-foot tall spar.  At this point the hole is deep enough to hold the bird’s head and shoulders.  This nest tree is about forty feet from the cabin where I stand.  The flicker works steadily.  Mountain Quail, unseen, continue to call.FKR1-A FKR1-B

830AM.  The temperature is now up to 52 degrees as the sun warms this patch of Earth.  This morning’s sky is a pale cerulean decorated with many cotton clouds of white and pale gray.  The clouds seems to be painted onto a blue scrim.  There is no apparent wind and nothing moves, neither cloud nor treetop nor air.SKY1

840AM   A lone call from a Mountain Quail, not too far away.  It’s been almost half an hour since the last call.  847AM The Flicker at the nest site is now tearing away a dangling beard of lichen from the tree’s trunk.  The lichen is interfering with the construction work.  I hear a few sharp honks from geese down in the valley.  Perhaps they are in an unseeable meadow.  Off to the northwest of the cabin I hear once the emphatic call of the Pileated Woodpecker, about eight notes that rise, then fall in volume.  It is North America’s largest surviving woodpecker (sorry, Ivory-billed fans).  The forest here is full of the Pileateds’ work.  Some stumps bear numerous deep declevities drilled by his long beak and powerful chiseling.  Beneath some holes you see the wood chips the size of a man’s finger littering the ground.  The Pileateds’ perforations are oblong or oval, sometimes several inches deep.  These holes speed the return of dead wood to soil.P2700538 (960x1280)

848AM The Flicker ceases to chisel and departs.  Hunger?  Sore muscles?  Head ache?  Not likely, the Flicker’s brain is safely cradled in a fluid-filled sac, an especially evolved protection among woodpeckers the world over.   Football players should be jealous.

857AM   A Red-breasted Nuthatch begins tooting his little tin horn up in the canopy.  I do not see him.  He could be on the far side of any of dozens of tree trunks, or on top of some limb fifty feet overhead.  This conifer forest is his chosen habitat hereabouts.  His white-breasted cousin in this part of Oregon prefers the lower, dryer oak forest.

Nora the dog takes me on a walk.  As soon as we step away from the cabin the jays adamantly express their hearty disapproval of our existence.  As we move away, they subside.  We head downslope toward the irrigation ditch.  Its parallel maintenance road is a smooth and level hiking trail in a rugged and limb strewn area.  It also offers occasional views of canyon or mountain slope through bordering trees.  Right now the ditch runs full of water headed to lower reservoirs.  Again the Canada Geese are in the air, honking as they fly.  Then two Sandhill Cranes bugle several times. I can’t see them, perhaps they share the goose meadow below.  This ancient crane music always pegs me to the spot.

I can do no better than quote Aldo Leopold when it comes to the calling of our Sandhill Cranes:

“A sense of time lies thick and heavy on such a place [as a crane marsh]. Yearly since the ice age it has wakened each spring to the clangor of cranes. The peat layers that comprise the bog are laid down in the basin of an ancient lake. The cranes stand, as it were, upon the sodden pages of their own history…Out on the bog a crane, gulping some luckless frog, springs his ungainly hulk into the air and flails the morning sun with mighty wings…

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.

“This much, though, can be said: our appreciation for the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history. His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”

Yes, crane music is a sound our hominid ancestors heard and recognized as they tracked the marshes and bogs of ages long past.  Though most crane species are now endangered our own Sandhills are the world’s most populous, maybe half a million.  As if the world’s whole population of humans were in Omaha.

On our walk Nora and I pass several pairs of Juncos.  They note us be do not panic.  Then we are treated to the flits and flutters of a brightly colored Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Finally we hear that tanager song again, just uphill from the irrigation canal.  The bright male perches on the outer edge of a cedar about thirty feet up, and sings.  His orange head picks up some of the sunlight even in the shade were he perches.  As we admire him another Mountain Quail calls at least a hundred yards away.  Normally, as man and dog bumble through the forest and scrub, the Mountain Quail is forewarned and moves ever further from the danger perceived. But yesterday a friend and I were aided by the wind and the loud soughing of the conifers as we birded Hyatt Meadow.  There we were unheard and surprised a pair of Mountain Quail feeding on the ground as usual.  Even then they quickly fluttered into a near thicket and we got only fleeting glimpses.

The dog walk took us past many blooming wild strawberries, a pleasant promise for the local bears.

Nora and I pass a footbridge to an unoccupied cabin.  A lizard speeds down the sunny wooden walkway and then tucks himself beneath the cabin’s wood siding when he reaches it.  Smugly hidden he peeks out from beneath the bottom of a board to watch us.

1020AM  Dog and man are back from the walk.  The sun’s energy has raised the temperature to 60 degrees.  Insects can be seen in the air.  Most of the puffy clouds have dissipated.  The sky is now a bolder blue than it was in dawn’s wan light.

11AM  A few peremptory croaks from a Raven.  There is a parking lot Raven here at Green Springs Inn.  His favored perch is atop a fir where he takes up his sentinel post from which he monitors all activities around the café, the lodge, the dumpsters and the chicken coop.

1124AM Flicker is back working at the excavation which is now deep enough to hold the bird down to his navel, if he had one.FKR2-A FKR2-B

1215PM The Flicker now has the hole deep enough to hold all of his body save tail feathers.  Soon he will leave off chiseling for the day.



[some Leopold quotes:

Posted by: atowhee | May 1, 2016




John Bullock and I had a day of birding around the Cascade Lakes east of Ashland.  Most of the day we were between 4500 and 5000 feet in elevation.  Our conclusion: only some migrants are back on nesting territory.  Juncos are all over the forests here bu many of them probably wintered at somebody feeder downhill in Ashland. Today we saw Vesper and Savanna and Chipping Sparrow, Tree Swallows, Mountain and Western Bluebirds all fuming over nest boxes, Cliff Swallows building nests on a barn, Sandhill Crane pairs patrolling the perimeter.  In all we saw 17 cranes today, by far the largest number of nesting cranes I’ve seen in a single day in this area.  I cannot know if some of today’s birds were yearlings who won’t nest.  We saw three definite territorial pairs.CRANS-HP EYEThis nonchalant pair of cranes were near DIMR at Howard Prairie.  Another pair across the road were much redder from mud-staining their feathers. CRANS-HP FEED CRANS-HP FEED2 CRANS-HP FEED3 CRANS-HP1 CRANS-HP2This distant pair were at Hyatt Meadow about one mile north of Hwy 66.HYT CRAN1 (1280x960) HYT CRAN2 (1280x960)

Our richest trove of cranes were in a meadow at the furthest northwest end of Forest Service Road 38-3E-11-4.  To look over this privately-owned meadow drive east on Dead Indian Memorial Road (DIMR).  East of Lily Glen take the first left-hand turn onto FS 38-3E-11.  About three hundred yards after you leave DIMR take the left turn onto 38-3E-11-4.  Take it as far as your vehicle will go safely, and its northwest terminus it become boggy.  Along the way you may have to drive under partially fallen trees and around mudholes.  But my Prius made it. After you can drive no further, walk to where the ruts meet the fence.  Beyond that fence is a broad, wet meadow with lines of willows along the stream course.  Here John counted 11 cranes today.

We checked three nest platforms in that section of the Cascades and saw no evidence of Great Gray Owl nesting.  Migrants that are apparently not back yet: all montane flycatchers, tanager, warblers besides Yellow-rumps, vireos. Migrants on passage that we saw included Bufflehead on Howard Prairie Lake.BLUE ON SPINE (1280x960) MTN BLU BOXD (1280x960)Mountain Bluebirds were at Howard Prairie and Hyatt Meadow where john Bullock has put up nesting boxes.  Not all have been claimed by Tree Swallows. TRUE BLUE (1280x960) TRUE BLUE CU (1280x960) TRUE BLUE FRONT (1280x960) TRUE BLUE TOO (1280x960) TRUE BLUE2 (1280x960)

Other birds we enjoyed today included the Dippers at the dam on Little Hyatt Lake.BE-SEC YR (1280x960) DIPP ON DAM (1280x960) DIPP ON DAM2 (1280x960) DIPP ON DAM3 (1280x960)The Dipper’s dam: DIPPERS DAM (960x1280)

A second year Bald Eagle high on a spar overlooking Howard Prairie Lake.BE-SEC YR (1280x960)

A Kestrel was hunting in Hyatt Meadow.HYT KEST (1280x960) HYT KEST2 (1280x960)

Surprise was the partially luecistic (white-crowned) Tree Swallow hanging out in a nest box at a small meadow along Keno Access Road.  We couldn’t see most of the bird but it appeared to have normal dark shoulders.TS LEUC1 (1280x960) TS LEUC2 (1280x960)Normal Tree Swallow: TS SHINE1 (1280x960) TS SHINE2 (1280x960)This bright Savannah Sparrow was very nterested in us, as we were in him, Howard Prairie.SAV SP LEANS (1280x960) SAVSP BRITE1 (1280x960) SAVSP BRITE2 (1280x960)Tow different Vesper Sparrows in two different meadows…they are found only here in Caacades, not further west in the Siskiyous. VESP (1280x960) VESP IN WIND (1280x960)The warbler you can’t escape, not ignore…on a fence line near the Mountain Bluebirds. YR ON FENCE (1280x960)

Finally, the spring wildflower show is well under way, enjoy:BRITE FLWR (1280x960)Chocolate lily at Hyatt Meadow, inside and out: CHOC LIL 2 (1280x960) CHOC LIL1 (1280x960) WHT FLWR (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | April 30, 2016


I spent another day over 4500 feet in elevation.  Checking meadows around Howard Prairie, driving up Table Mountain Road, then in late afternoon up Soda Mountain Road until it got too rough for the urbane Prius.  Needed the Subaru past the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail.  Most of the migrant species are not around.  Beauty of the day was  male Yellow-rump at Green Springs Inn where we are staying.YEL RUM BRITE (1280x960) YEL RUM IN OPEN (1280x960)Not a bad looker for a warbler as common as dirt.

The meadow near Howard Prairie Lake was possessed by Tree Swallows.  They were swirling across the sky, checking out tree cavities and every next box put up by the meadow owner.T-D BACKLIT (1280x960)  T-S 0N SPAR (1280x960) T-S ON BOX (1280x960)Signs of spring are appearing.  The oaks up here are just starting to put out leaves, the maples just slightly ahead of them.  Below: trillium and willow catkins.TRILYUM WILLO CATKNS (1280x960)Ants, about half inch long and red. Their mound overs most of a large stump:ANTS CRAWL (1280x960) ANTS MND (1280x960)This is one Western Bluebird I saw at a meadow, another was alive.  I couldn’t tell how this one died. BB DED (1280x960)Keene Creek reservoir, next generation: CAGOSLINGS (1280x960) DEJU SHARP (1280x960) DOGWUD IN FORESTDogwood above was at Tub Springs, others were still fairly yellow.  Downy preens while hanging up, Green Springs. DOWO PREEN (1280x960)View across Howard Prairie Lake to Jackson County’s own volcano, Mt. McLaughlin. LAKE1I heard cranes at this location but could not find them.  Also present: House Wren, Red-breasted Sapsucker pair, Flicker, both bluebird sp.  This is near where the Tree Swallows were swarming. LAKE2The littlest chipmunk, a least.  Along Table Rock Road these tykes were abundant.L-C IN SUN (1280x960) L-C LOOKS (1280x960) L-C SCAMPER (1280x960)Mountain Chickadee, Green Springs: M-C IN PINE (1280x960) M-C1 (1280x960)Mountain Bluebird near Howard Prairie: MTN BLU (1280x960)Up Table Rock Road I heard several Mountain Quail, zero seen as usual.  One Gray Jay who fled the scene.  Plenty of Juncos.

Posted by: atowhee | April 29, 2016


We are staying at Green Springs Lodge at about 4600 feet in the Cascades in Jackson County, OR.  We had to be in Medford by 745AM today so we were up early.  As soon as I stepped outside into the chilly dawn (temp about 36 degrees) I heard the song of a Hermit Thrush nearby.  In the background was the trumpeting of a Red-breasted Nuthatch but it was the music of the thrush that promised a day to remark on.

Not many miles down the road about 627AM we saw a Great Gray Owl hunting in a meadow along the roadside not far from Howard Prairie Lake. The owl didn’t pose for a picture.

Around 8AM I was with Nora at Ashland Pond and there were a half dozen Green-winged Teal there, not a common bird at that location.  Also heard both a Yellow-breasted Chat and a Black-headed Grosbeak singing.  No sight nor sound of oriole.GWT-SWMS (1280x960) GWT-SWMS2 (1280x960) MALL TALKS (1280x960)

The lone male Mallard there was speaking in loud declarative sentences.

Returning back to the Cascades in the early afternoon there was a Wilson’s Snipe atop his favorite fence post right along Dead Indian Memorial at Howard Prairie.  I believe it was too cold (below 50) for any snipe winnowing.   But this bird DID pose for pictures as we didn’t get out of the car.SNP-HP1 SNP-HP2 SNP-HP3

Tree Swallow on tree top.TSW HIGH

Anna’s Hummingbird male, alert sentinel always. ANN ALERT (1280x960) GCS BEAUTY (1280x960) GCS FACING US (1280x960)

Golden-crowned Sparrows can still be found around here…but not for much longer.  They gotta get to breeding territory before their feathers begin to fade.

Birder alert: the mosquito density at Ashland Pond (on scale of 0-10) is about a six.  On a warmer day it’ll be a blood-thirsty crowd that greets your bare flesh.

The chief birds of Green Springs Lodge:CHKEN


John Burroughs on the Hermit Thrush, written in 1863:

“Ever since I entered the woods, even while listening to the lesser songsters, ort contemplating the silent forms about me, a strain has reached my ears from out of the depths of the forest that is to me the finest sound in nature,–the song of the hermit thrush.  I often hear him thus a long way off…I detect this sound rising pure and serene, as if a spirit from some remote height were slowly chanting a divine accompaniment.  This song appeals to the sentiment of the beautiful in me… It is very simple, and I can hardly tell the secret of its charm.  “Oh spheral, spheral!” he seems to say; “O holy, holy! O clear away clear away!  Oh clear up, clear up!” interspersed with the finest trills and the most delicate preludes.  It is not a proud, gorgeous strain, like a tanager’s or grosbeak’s; suggests no passion or emotion, –nothing personal,–but seems to be the voice of the calm, sweet solemnity one attains to in his best moments….

“He [Hermit Thrush] is not much in the books.  Indeed, I am acquainted with scarcely any writer on ornithology whose head is not muddled on the subject of our three song-thrushes, confounding either their figures or their songs.”

Burroughs would be happy to note that we can now—150 years later—at any time hear good recordings of songs of “his” three thrushes: Hermit, Wood and Veery.  Plus we can now point out to his shade that we recognize Gray-cheecked, Bicknell’s and Swainson’s as fellow members of the song-thrush tribe in North America.  One of Europe’s finest singers (along with nightingale and skylark) is the similarly plumaged Song Thrush who fills the role played in the Americas by thrashers and Mockingbirds.

Posted by: atowhee | April 28, 2016


I’ve gotten to bird in northern Scotland (almost redundant) and Lake Itasca in Minnesota so I am familiar with breeding plumage loons…but not so much here in southern Oregon.  On Hyatt Lake today not far from Ashland, this beauty:COLO-CLSW (1280x960)That blur is one of the many Cliff Swallows nesting on a concrete structure near the reservoir’s dam. COLO-PERFCT (1280x960) COLO-PREEN (1280x960)Emigrant Lake, my first gopher snake of spring, a short <two feet.GPHR SNAK (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | April 26, 2016


I got to participate in an owl prowl at 2016 Winter Wings Festival in Klamath County, OR.  It was in mid-February.  Now the Winter Wings fest is featured in a new TV show and yours truly had a speaking part.  Here’s the press release:

The Klamath Basin Audubon Society is pleased to announce the release of a new television show about the 2016 Winter Wings Festival and birds of the Klamath Basin. The show was created by James Currie, host of the nationally syndicated Nikon’s Birding Adventures, during his visit to the Klamath Basin in mid-February. Local birders Gerry Hill, Kevin Spencer, Dave Hewitt, and Harry Fuller (McMinnville) appear on the show. The Running Y Ranch Resort is the featured lodging partner with support also coming from USFWS, Discover Klamath, and business sponsors Lake of the Woods, The Ledge, and Wild Birds Unlimited. This project was partially funded by the Klamath County Room tax grant program.

DirecTV subscribers may view the show on Destination America Channel 286 Friday April 22nd at 4:30 am. Following its airing, the show will be available to the general public on YouTube and on the Winter Wings Festival website,

Posted by: atowhee | April 26, 2016


After sunset last night we heard swifts in a chimney.  This is above a gas fireplace that we do not use.  The ruffling of wings could be heard from the top of the hollow verticality.  Tonight I will watch to see how many enter if they return.  Not sure yet if they will nest in our chimney.  There certainly are many Vaux’s Swift in our neighborhood in the summer.

Female Flicker doing suet:NOFL SUETING OCW-1 (1280x960)Orange-crowned Warbler lurking at Ed Grenfell Park. OCW-2 (1280x960) OCW-TAKE OFF (1280x960)

DPR IN CRK (1280x960)One of the Dippers at Dipper Bridge on Baker Creek Road. I went to check on these Dippers after being out of town for a week.  I surmise they are now incubating eggs in their nest beneath the bridge.DPR IN CRK2 (1280x960) DPR UNDER WTR (1280x960) DPR2-APR26 (1280x960) DPR-APR26 (1280x960)One of my favorite newts at Ed Grenfell Park: NEWT (1280x960)WCS IN YARD (1280x960)WCS IN YARD WCS LOOKS (1280x960)White-crown above, y09ung oak leaves below.  Now a bright green and soft, these leaves will darken and become leathery in the summer heat.  YNG OAK (1280x960)

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